THE MAIL

October 27 2003

THE MAIL

October 27 2003

THE MAIL

‘The profiles of our troops in Afghanistan brought home to me the real struggles and triumphs of these outstanding Canadians.’ -JOHN GRAHAM, Barrie, Ont.

Casualties of peace

Now that we have lost two more brave soldiers in the line of duty (“In harm’s way,” Cover, Oct. 13), isn’t it time we re-evaluated our position in Afghanistan? Does it enhance our defence or does it enhance the international political position of Jean Chrétien? Our people are getting killed because present and previous Liberal governments have allowed the Canadian Forces to become strategically and functionally impaired. The systemic decay of the Canadian military can be blamed on the federal Liberals. Our military has no heavy airlift capability. Our Aurora patrol aircraft, Hercules transports and Sea King helicopters remain aloft only because of the ingenuity and dedication of their aircraft maintenance organizations. Our CF-18s are in dire need of technical and mechanical upgrades. Our Victoria class submarines are a leaky international joke. We don’t have enough credible warships in our fleet to be called a navy. Let’s not forget that it was our vindictive little Prime Minister who disbanded the Airborne Regiment. And we still need a Sea King replacement. Chrétien should bring our people home and give them the appropriate resources and equipment to complete their tasks.

Randall Kimm, Fredericton

The rationale given by senior military staff and Defence Department officials for continued use of the lightly armoured litis vehicle is that the size of the explosion that killed Sgt. Robert Short and Cpl. Robbie Beerenfenger was so big even a Mercedes or Humvee would not have offered adequate protection. Perhaps, but the headlines might have read “Five injured,” instead of “Two dead, three injured.”

Eric Kirkpatrick, Vancouver

The profile of Lieut. Chris Nobrega (“On guard against an unseen foe,” Cover, Oct. 13) describes a goodly portion of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. All Canadians should salute his efforts to win the hearts and minds of a people shredded by war for too long. G. James Thomson, Oakville, Ont.

Hurricane-force fury

When the lights went out in Toronto not so long ago, we were swamped with television and print coverage across Canada. Maclean’s gave us a cover and nine pages of stories, photos and facts (“Unplugged,” Cover, Aug. 25). Then Hurricane Juan hits Nova Scotia, it causes a blackout in Halifax that lasts up to three times the length of the Toronto outage. It destroys Point Pleasant Park to a point that makes my stomach turn just thinking about it and the fishing communities along the shore are shattered. What coverage does Maclean’s offer? A two-column piece and two pictures (“A mighty blow,” Weather, Oct. 13). Pathetic. David Mc Quaid, Halifax

Feeling exposed I When following the drill isn’t enough protection

Photographer Dilip Metha, in Afghanistan to take pictures of soldiers for our Oct. 13 cover package, went on two patrols in litis jeeps just before two Canadians riding in one of those vehicles were killed by a land mine. “Heavy flak jackets, helmet, antishrapnel pads on the seat and the floor of the vehicle,” he wrote after the fatalities. “I bitched about the discomfort, only to realize now that safety precautions were imperative but obviously not sufficient. It’s all so futile.”

Everything old is new again

As I read “Cool cars” (Cover, Sept. 29), I couldn’t help but think that some of the socalled “new” developments and features on automobiles are not so new. While some environmentally minded consumers these days are buying the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight, about 100 years ago electric cars seriously challenged gasoline-powered vehicles for supremacy. The electrics were quieter and smoother, but consumers eventually favoured the higher speeds offered by gaspowered cars. Now we are realizing that speed comes at the expense of our environment. The article mentions GM’s Envoy XUV, with a four-foot section of the roof that retracts to accommodate tall objects. A similar sliding roof was available on Studebaker station wagons from 1963 to 1966. As for the tent on the back of the Pontiac Aztek, that was also an option on the 1949 Kaiser Vagabond. It was a four-door sedan with a folding back seat, a drop-down trunk lid and a flip-up rear window. The idea was revived on several hatchbacks of the 1970s, including my 1973 Pontiac Ventura. Reviving popular styling trends of the past—with so-called retro vehicles like the Beetle, Chev SSR, Mini, Nissan 350Z and T-Bird—has also been tried before. Many developments are making vehicles safer, smarter and more enjoyable. But sometimes what is billed as “new” is really a refinement and repackaging of old ideas.

Dale Johnson, Regina

Male mortality

If men were living 5.5 years longer than women, rather than the other way around (Science/Health, Up Front, Oct. 13), there would be round-the-clock royal commissions about why this was so. You say it’s partially because men take risks with their lives, but willingly? A large part of the reason women outlive men is that men still do the heavy lifting in society—risky construction work, combat positions in the military. And how many of the 343 fire “fighters” who died on 9/11 were women? The answer is zero, but, hey, we’ve got the terminology right.

Derek van Dassen, Markham, Ont.

Lunch and learning

It saddened me to read T. Lindsay’s response to “Lunchroom bedlam” (Cover, Sept. 22) in The Mail of Oct. 6. How is it that the lunchroom problems are the fault of teachers? Does lack of sufficient funding for monitors not factor in? I find it difficult to see how this parent values lunchtime (or gym, hall, recess or bus) supervision for teachers over time spent giving students extra help, preparing more engaging lessons, staying in touch with parents, etc. I love teaching. I’m not asking for a medal; just don’t label me a complainer for wanting to do more of just that: meaningful teaching.

Amy Melchiorre, Picton, Ont.

Yes, my husband chose teaching as a career, but does that mean he should work 20 to 30 extra hours weekly for free? Blame the education system (thanks to Ralph Klein’s cuts) if there is no funding for adequate lunchroom facilities for your daughter. Don’t blame the teachers!

Katherine Symington, Canmore, Alta.

The younger children at my daughter’s school are supervised at lunchtime by older children referred to as Lunch Angels. My daughter loves the Lunch Angels who come into her classroom and take turns eating with the children. She loves that she gets to know the older kids, that they sit down with them and help with the little things. She hopes one day to become a Lunch Angel herself. Yvonne Bertrand, Winnipeg

Teacher/learner

I am a passionate advocate of the computer as a tool of unimaginable potential in classroom settings, so the comment that “the jury is very much out” as to whether computers help students learn struck a painful chord. Decisions about technology have been driven by one question, and that is how to improve the effectiveness of what schools are already doing, i.e., increasing test scores. This is further complicated by putting a large amount of money into hardware and technical backup, while the people end of technology and education—technology leaders who are needed to lead teachers into transforming teaching and learning—have not been considered in any way. Little wonder, more than two decades after computers have entered classrooms, that the jury is still out.

Cauleen J. Stanley, Fort Frances, Ont.

I am always looking for that idea or image that will spark and ignite students’ learning power

As I am always learning new teaching methods, I enjoyed “The ABCs of classroom fun” (Cover, Sept. 22). In spite of our issues, the fun of teaching, the humour of staff members, the real truth about principals and the creative genius of kids are the reasons I like to go to work every day. Teaching is a 24-hour job. I am always looking for that idea or image or article that will spark and ignite students’ learning power, and your wonderful article provided me with even more ideas.

Ardell J. Clark-Tronnes, Calgary

“The ABCs of classroom fun” reminded me of when I was in Grade 6, back in 1958. Our teacher, Mrs. Henry, taught us the names of the countries in South America by having us sing them. I can still sing them today. Good teachers have been using all sorts of methods for many years.

Barbara Steuart, Kelowna, B.C.

Bottoms up

It’s refreshing to see that people are beginning to appreciate beer for the truly wonderful drink that it is (“The new hip hops,” Business, Oct. 6). I started on Molson Ex and now only buy it when the beer store is out of Sleeman Cream Ale—my new favourite bottled beer. There are many great beers out there and it’s about time beer drinkers expanded their horizons beyond the truly bland Blues and Canadians, and ugh, Buds, of the world. I visited England for the first time in 1995 and since then have developed a passion for English and Irish ales and stouts. During a Caribbean cruise I discovered the joys of Mexican cervezas such as Sol, Dos Equis, and Corona. It is indeed true that beer lovers can be as passionate about their beer as wine drinkers can be about their wine. Great article!

Frank Claeys, Ottawa

Lethal weapons

“More people were killed with knives than with guns last year” (Up Front, Canada, Oct. 13). What’s next? A Canadian knife registry?

Gordon Barnes, Aurora, Ont.

Speaking of sex

Since when did the activities of dating and sex become synonymous? Does increasing the trendiness factor of one’s product mean stooping to the lowest common denominator? Your cover (“Internet Sex,” Oct. 6) was cheesy, sleazy, misleading and extremely unbecoming to Maclean’s.

Sue Peristy, Cobourg, Ont.

I admire your courage in covering such a risqué topic as the new Cirque du Soleil show, Zumanity, in Las Vegas (“Las Vegas, P.Q.,” Special Report, Oct. 6). Cirque du Soleil dares go where it has never gone before, in the burlesque tradition of European cabaret. It showcases nudity, interracial and same-sex relations, sado-masochism and even a startling depiction of auto-asphyxiation, pushing the boundaries of what people find acceptable in art to new limits. And while it treads through some controversial territory, Zumanity is always persistent with its message that sex is good. If Maclean’s were willing to explore artistic and cultural phenomena like this more often, I’d be handing out magazines on the street corner. There is always a need for the news but also for colour, and Zumanity definitely adds colour.

Adam Hewson, Ottawa

Cirque du Soleil is a class act, but usually when sex is divorced from privacy, love and commitment, it becomes just another commodity, whether classy or sleazy. Rev. M. Elizabeth Chapman, London, Ont. No one can truly know what it is to be a parent until she is one. My reasons for having children at 25 are not the same as the reasons that I am glad I have them now at 43. My children have taught me more about myself, living and love than I ever could have foreseen. Theresa Cahill’s story smacks of an Aesopian “Those grapes were probably too sour anyway.”

Without progeny

Theresa Cahill’s article “You assumed wrong” (Over to You, Oct. 6) is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Of course parenthood should be a choice. Bringing up a child, no matter how much you love him or her, is a huge investment in time, money and energy. As parents of a son and daughter,

there were times when we really had our hands full, but we never regretted the choice and we never felt critical of friends who decided they wanted no kids. Far from shirking their responsibility, childless couples are probably doing this poor old overcrowded planet a favour. Although it seems to be politically incorrect to say so (at least, in some quarters), our biggest problem is overpopulation. People who have six children or so are the irresponsible ones, even in countries like Canada, where we have a big advantage in terms of natural resources. Betty Eckgren, Victoria

Brenda Norris, Courtenay, B.C.

My reasons for having children at 25 are not the same as the reasons that I am glad I have them now at 43

In one paragraph Theresa Cahill describes the empowerment and freedom that come with being childless and makes me think, “Yes, exactly, and I can’t do all that.” So give me my maternity leave because I need to keep my energy and strength. It’s not be-

cause those of us with children are more important, but if the workplace can accommodate parents and have successful, productive employees whose lives will produce the same success in their children, that to me is what every parent has a right to expect. I believe each choice is a right choice when a person is a happy, contributing member of society.

Lynn Nadeau, Kapuskasing, Ont.

Shades of reform

Irshad Manji is correct in encouraging Muslims to think more critically, but she is mistaken in assuming that this represents a reformist approach to Islam (“ ‘I’m asking for honesty,’ ” Q&A, Sept. 29). The Koran itself promotes and demands critical thinking from all of humankind and cites blind submission as a sin. If Muslims today aren’t doing that, it is their attitudes that need change, not the faith.

Mona Moosavian, Kingston, Ont.

Amazingly, none of the letters written in response to Irshad Manji’s plea for a reexamination of Islamic values addressed the issue of Muslim suicide bombers who routinely kill and maim rather than negotiate with reality (“Islam today,” The Mail, Oct. 13). Instead, the “debate” hedged the issue by targeting Jews and Israel, completely dispensing with historical facts to boot. Sad for Islam but sadder for the Jews.

Daniel Wise, Montreal